Hacker who stole unreleased Ed Sheeran songs and offered them for sale is jailed

Officers seized seven devices from Adrian Kwiatkowski including a hard drive that contained 1,263 unreleased songs by 89 artists, police said.

21 October 2022

A computer hacker who stole two unreleased songs from Ed Sheeran and 12 from an American rapper and offered the tracks for sale on the dark web has been jailed for 18 months.

Adrian Kwiatkowski, of Hampton Road in Ipswich, offered the songs by Sheeran and by US musician Lil Uzi Vert in exchange for cryptocurrency after hacking the performer’s digital accounts, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

The 23-year-old defendant’s Apple Mac laptop was searched, uncovering 565 audio files which including the songs by Vert and Sheeran, the CPS said.

Adrian Kwiatkowski
Adrian Kwiatkowski (City of London Police/PA)

He made £131,000, City of London Police said.

Kwiatkowski admitted three charges of unauthorised access to computer material, 14 charges of making for sale an article infringing copyright, one charge of converting criminal property and two charges of possession of criminal property, the CPS said.

He also admitted receiving bitcoin cryptocurrency for the songs, and he was jailed for 18 months at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday, the CPS said.

Joanne Jakymec of the CPS said: “Kwiatkowski had complete disregard for the musicians’ creativity and hard work producing original songs and the subsequent loss of earnings.

“He selfishly stole their music to make money for himself by selling it on the dark web.

“We will be pursuing ill-gotten gains from these proceeds of crime.”

Wireless Festival – Crystal Palace Park
US rapper Lil Uzi Vert performing at the Wireless Festival in London in July (James Manning/PA)

City of London Police said The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office launched an investigation in 2019 after the management companies of several musicians reported that an individual, known online as Spirdark, had gained access to a series of accounts and was selling the content that had been saved in them.

The investigation linked the email address used to set up Spirdark’s cryptocurrency account to Kwiatkowski and identified the IP address of the device used to hack one of the accounts as his home address, City of London Police said.

The investigation was referred to the force’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), supported by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

After further investigation, Kwiatkowski was arrested by PIPCU officers in September 2019.

The unit seized seven devices including a hard drive that contained 1,263 unreleased songs by 89 artists, City of London Police said.

A document saved on the hard drive summarised the method he had used to obtain them, and Bitcoin, then worth £64,000, was also seized, City of London Police said.

During his police interview, Kwiatkowski admitted he had hacked the musicians and sold their songs online, the force said.

He also confirmed that he used the alias Spirdark

A review of Kwiatkowski’s bank account showed that he had deposited a total of £67,275 from February 2018 to September 2019, £61,855 of which was from his cryptocurrency accounts, City of London Police said.

Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt from City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) said: “Kwiatkowski was a highly skilled individual who unfortunately saw potential in using his abilities unlawfully.

“Not only did he cause several artists and their production companies significant financial harm, he deprived them of the ability to release their own work.

“This investigation is an excellent example of the way PIPCU and its partner agencies work across international borders to identify those involved in criminal activity.

“Kwiatkowski will now face the consequences of his actions, and I hope this result will also make his customers refrain from purchasing illegal content again.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L Bragg Jr said: “Cybercrime knows no borders, and this individual executed a complex scheme to steal unreleased music in order to line his own pockets.

“New York and London are cultural capitals of the world, and through our enduring partnership with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and law enforcement organisations around the world, we have sent a clear message that we have the ability and tools to stop this type of criminal activity and protect victims.”

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